Confidence has without a doubt the best lighting I have ever seen in a film. It was gorgeous. I don’t think there was any white light used at any point. Everything was bathed in yellow, green, blue and red tones. It danced off the actor’s faces. Stunning. Very memorable. All praise is due to the cinematographer, Juan Ruiz Anchía. I could see re-watching Confidence with the sound off and a good album playing behind it. Like Cure For Pain by Morphine. Literally, a visual feast.
That said, pretty much everything else about Confidence sucks.
The one to blame is Doug Jung. He wrote it, and the script stinks. Bad, bad, bad. Sometimes you can blame the director. But in this case, we are talking about James Foley, who directed Glengarry Glenn Ross, which just might be the greatest film ever made. No, Confidence stinks because of Jung. Why so bad? Here’s one reason. Constant, relentless narration. Every fucking scene was just narrated to death. On and on and on the fucking narration went. To the point where it was like you were sitting in a bar listening to some asshole tell you a bullshit tall tale about some whacky adventure he and his friends had. You heard it here first, Doug Jung is no David Mamet.
Let me give you a little background on my beef. If you think about really good Los Angeles crime/noir films, like Chinatown or L.A. Confidential or Heat or The Usual Suspects, besides having really compelling story lines (Confidence is a clumsy story at best, murky in reality) they don’t have constant on the nose observations from the main character. The camera informs the viewer, the actions of the actors drive the story, the vibe of the city does all the legwork. Not some poor man’s Ben Affleck (Ed Burns) who is trying to simultaneously ape De Niro’s McCauley (Heat) and Baldwin’s McManus (Suspects) while failing to keep his tough-guy turrets under control. I mean, Jung even named Burns “Jake,” for the love of Chinatown. And in The Usual Suspects, Spacey and Palminteri’s conversation, which Jung totally rips off, works by building tremendous amounts of tension. Unlike the one that takes place between Burns and Chestnut, which looked like a bad high school play, and only got me interested as to where in my neighborhood the scene was filmed. Also, if you are going to hold a gun to someone’s head for an hour, wouldn’t you do it inside? Just a thought.
Another reason for Confidence’s underwhelmingness? Dreadful misuse of the actors. Three of my favorite actors are in the film; Andy Garcia, Paul “Pig Vomit” Giamatti and Luis Guzmán. You know how much time we get with Garcia’s character? Maybe five minutes. Maybe. Basically, one scene in a diner. Giamatti? He gets plenty of screen time, but is just left out to hang and dry by the script. His character, Gordo, is supposed to be – you know what I just realized? Everyone in the movie is second fiddle to Burn’s Jake. Everyone. Jake is smarter than everyone, tougher, meaner, stronger, a better fighter, more devious, etc. Every other character’s personality and traits are subjugated by Jake. It is like they are not fully formed people. Typically in a crime movie that involves a crew, you have different crooks with different strengths and weaknesses, In Confidence, everyone is weaker then Jake. There are no other strengths. Jake thinks up all the plans, is the lead guy, gets the girl, does all the work, takes all the risk – man, this movie is dumb. I suppose Jung would argue that Chestnut is holding a gun to Jake’s head the whole film while he fucking narrates it. I would counter that the whole gun to the head thing was dumb, unnecessary and distracting. And you knew he was going to get out of it the whole time anyhow.
Think about Heat for a second. De Niro definitely led the crew, however, Kilmer’s character was the computer expert and Sizemore was the muscle. Or in L.A. Confidential, Ed Exley, Bud White and Jack Vincennes all had very distinct personalities and strengths. Exley (Pearce) was the smart, calculating one. White (Crowe) was raw fury, tempered by nothing except for the opposite sex. And Vincennes (Spacey) was the sleek and savvy yet hollow celebrity cop. The characters had real, fleshed out personalities and the way they contrast with each other is what gives the movie weight and depth. Here in Confidence, all the other characters, especially the guys in the crew, are nothing but little mini versions of Burns, with no discerning personalities or characteristics of their own. Oh yeah, Gordo doesn’t like public restrooms. Oh yeah, and that particular piece of info is not only all we get about Giamatti’s character to differentiate him from a lump on a log, but it is a critical plot point. I am fairly convinced that Doug Jung is Burns’ agent. Never have I seen a film so singularly revolve around one character, especially when surrounded by such a quality-supporting cast, much to the films detriment. Instead of weight and depth, Confidence feels light and thin.
Anyhow, it was criminal to take a comedic master like Giamatti (See Safe Men for proof) and cast him in a tough guy role. I’m hoping that the evil Hollywood machine had something to do with Giamatti’s demotion to a second tier character. I mean, even though he has roughly fives times as much screen time as Hoffman, and tens times what Garcia gets, Giamatti is not mentioned anywhere on the billboards nor shown in the trailer. The marketing team is stupidly relying on Burns and Weisz’s good looks and Hoffman and Garcia’ s star cache to fill the theaters. Which isn’t working based off of the other five folks in the theater with my girl and me last night [Ed Note: She’s over 18 this time. We swear it]. Guzmán is also criminally underutilized. He plays a crooked cop teamed up with the forgettable Canadian Donal Logue and the two are simply clowns who are quickly forgotten.
Other crimes that Confidence commits? Weisz has about eight lines of dialogue, most of which consist of her telling Jake what an asshole he is. Granted, Weisz’s striking Semitic good looks make my heart melt every time I look at her (Well, not everytime…) I am sure she is capable of portraying a character with a personality. Here she wasn’t given the chance. I know I should talk about Hoffman’s portrayal of “The King.” It would be different to see a movie where the underworld bad guy isn’t the toughest motherfucker ever born. Serious, wouldn’t it be refreshing to hear, “Man, you stole form the Prince! But don’t sweat it, cause he’s kind of a softy who got rich off his good luck and forgiving ways. He’ll probably just want to get some but not all of the money back. At some undisclosed point in the future.” Of course, Hoffman’s character is a raging psychopath who once tied a guy to a radiator for… I forget why, but it was a silly reason. Oh, and he’s bisexual, which is supposed to do I’m not sure what, but he is and there you go. I guess Hoffman is good. Still, writer-boy Jung just didn’t take any chances, so “the King,” like Confidence, is more bark than bite.
Let me illustrate. There is a scene where Burns and Weisz go to see “The King” to ask for some “start up” money for the big grift they’re all trying to pull. Hoffman is mad because, well, I’m not sure. I think bad guys just get mad for no reason. Anyhow, in order to humiliate Burns, he makes Weisz touch his chest. I know, I know. Hoffman does this to show Burns how powerful a bad-ass kingpin he is, but what? That’s the fucking best you could come up with Jung? What if he had made her strip? Or had “Tiny” Lister start touching her? Or had one of the “sisters” go down on her. Or just punched her really good in the gut? Something that would actually be humiliating is all I’m saying. Instead, the script is just sort of low level creepy. And by that I mean forgettable. Lynch did it right when he had Hopper flexing for MacLachlan. If you are going to humiliate someone, fucking humiliate them! Don’t pussyfoot around trying to let a bunch of tough-guy braggadocio/psycho babble substitute for any sort of clever action. Show me something.
That’s another thing; no one speaks English in this movie. They all speak Tarantino. Or Guy Ritchie. Or McQuarrie. It is really fucking tired. People, even “cool” people, are capable of having conversations without every single fucking sentence being a catch phrase filled with genre specific jargon. One day when I’m a real movie reviewer (yeah right) I’ll learn how to take notes at a theater. That said, I can’t remember any specific lines, except that Gordo calls toilet seats, “hoops.” It was ancient after ten minutes. After twenty, all I wanted to do was look at the pretty colors.
The ending of Confidence is so twisted and convoluted that they may as well have just said it was a dream. Because, if you buy what they sell at the end, the entire story, from the first frame right until the big revelation (Garcia is a crooked Customs agent – ooh!) is part of Burns’ master grift-plan. Meaning that he even gets his friend killed – on purpose – so he can get closer to Hoffman and the five million dollars. The Usual Suspects did this same trick at the end whereby revealing that everything you had watched had been an illusion, a trick of Verbal’s tongue. In Confidence, we are supposed to believe that Burns is not only smarter than God, but more clever, too. Sorry, but I didn’t fall for it. Neither should you.
- Overall: 4 (Only cause it was nice to look at.)
- Direction: 3
- Acting: 3
- Story: 2
- Re-watchability: 2
Special Ruthless Ratings
- Is Confidence better then Days of Thunder: Yes
- Is it better than Shrek: No
- Number of times you thought that the redhead and bird jinx were directly lifted from Van Sant’s Drugstore Cowboy: 34
- Number of times you realized most of what took place in Confidence was lifted directly from other films: 57
- Number of times you had a difficult time recalling what any character said or did, save Hoffman: 23
- How did Ed Burns Become a star: I have no idea.
- Would the movie have been much better if Garcia or Hoffman had been in Burns’ role, Guzmán had been in Giamatti’s and Giamatti had been in Hoffman’s: Yes